Muslim immigrants who came from South Asia, especially from Pakistan have lived through the trouble of a double mind. They are also bracketed with the Asian diasporic identity and have to respond to political crisis like the Gulf war, Rushdie affair, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pakistan transnational identity is submerged in these identities, and it is critical to understand the conflicting pressures that the young Pakistanis are subjected to in America especially in the clash between cultures in the Diaspora. The novel, the Reluctant Fundamentalist narrates about the conflict that is epitomized in the dilemma of its protagonist to understand the identity imposed to him. This story is narrated in Lahore but its setting is in New York and the narrator of the story tells the story to an American in a café.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a novel written by Mohsin Hamid. It is a contemporary tale of a man's struggle to evaluate the fundamentals of his life. Changez is a young man from Pakistan, who is a fresh-faced student at Princeton University, and through his hard work he is always top in class. Later, he had a plum role of financial analysts in Underwood Samson, a New York firm and earns $ 80,000 a year. Focusing on the firms motto, he helps to change the value of this company before the sales were downsized. During the sharp end in the market, Changez is on his side to be a Mujahid. He does not have compunctions in this score, however, he hides it from the others and himself.
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Because of this, he is complimented as a shark who would always be hungry in order to prove himself. Together with his colleagues, they studied businesses for acquisition of merger where their judgments were meant to make or break the a company. Changez reveals his new expense-account lifestyle by enjoying the cosmopolitan sophistication and buzz in the New York city. This was far much different from his humble background in Lahore; he also falls in love with a daughter of a banker, who secures his entry in New York's high society.
All seemed well, but it comes a day when two aircrafts, which are hijacked plunge in the world Trade Centre's twin towers; this is the beginning of change in his life. He adores an American girl, who reveals her deep and self destructive grief, which mirrors the stricken USA. The west respond to 9/11 and war and terror evolves, here is when Changez begins to evaluate the fundamentals of his life as well as the political life of the nations. He compares his life in Pakistan with that of New York and discovers the loyalties he has never known.
Changez comes to realization during a business trip to Chile. The book-loving Juan-Bautista who is a director at a troubled printing firm is discontented with Changez and asks him a question he cannot answer. He then chooses to go back to New York because he refused to be a janissary in the modern-day. With his new beard, he creates suspicion and fired at by Underwood Samson. He is then escorted out of the premises by security guards, then he finds out that her girlfriend has retreated from the banks of Hudson river and drowned herself. His work expires and Changez goes back to Pakistan, but he is determined to do his part to stop America and protect the interest of humanity. In the memory of Erica, who left her clothes beside the river before drowning, Changez leaves his jacket at a Kerdside.
Racism invokes people and divides across that projections can be lodged effectively; at a distance. The extent to which the projected content is internally unwanted creates its projection outside the world of a potentially dangerous object with threats that must be anticipated and monitored constantly. The relationship between object and subject is therefore inscribed in a paranoid frame, which it is difficult to realize the nature of the object and see them to whom they really are.
Racism involves an organized set of defenses employed by an individual or a group to shield themselves from danger. The person or a group of people with such behavior claims that they are shielding themselves from danger. The protection comes from constant or active projection. In a mindset of a racist, he is convinced that the prejudiced view he or she has is true, and they are highly resistance to change. Racism can be based on skin color, religion among others. This forms of racism plays a role in peoples life, both to those who are on the giving and those on the receiving end. Those who engages in racism would always behave in a defined manner, and hides on safety matters when confronted, while those on the receiving end would always wonder why they are always victims. In this novel of Reluctant Fundamentalist, religion is partly plays a role of deciding gets what and how he gets it. It also dictates the identity of an individual and the relations one has with the foreigners.
In reluctant Fundamentalist, Changez exemplifies his problem; this gifted young man from Pakistanis sent to New York to excel. He graduates from Princeton university and appointed to a highly prestigious and competitive consultancy. While in this firm he proves to be the top new recruit. He flourishes while in New York, but the people around him are not happy with his success; he remembers when he was riding with his friends and a man who was driving next to him looked at him with a lot of hostility, which was not disguised. He wondered why he was looking at him in that manner, only to notice that he was foreign, but he chooses to ignore all the bad reactions he received and proceeds on with his life. This shows that the Philippine is irritated by Hamid when he realizes that he is foreign and from a different religion.
He goes ahead to marry Erica, a woman who is beautiful, gifted and intelligent. She was a fellow Princeton graduate with a western identification. Erica loves him back but she is held back by her childhood soul-mate who died tragically. Changez encourages Erica to pretend that he was her lover who had died; Changez succeeds with his act of selfishness as he ignites real love in Erica. Changez is however, not happy with his success to make her love him; this is because he realized that in order to be loved he had to pretend to be someone else. The fact that Changez was a Muslim from Middle East makes her not comfortable to date him. This is because of the perceptions of the American towards the people from middle East particularly the Muslim. So for Hamid to be loved he has to pretend to be America and of religion that is accepted by the American.
During the 9/11 era Hamid had a strategy of sacrificing his Muslim identity but he was still undermined. This event made him to see the difficulties that could exist in the area after the event especially for the Pakistanis who were also Muslims. His sacrifice for the Muslim religion was not enough to save him from being undermined because they already knew he was from Muslim religion. They never thought of his identity as an individual, but as a Pakistan from Muslim religion. The people from Middle East were identified as terrorist since the 9/11 and since most people from Middle East are Muslims, all the Muslims or anybody who appeared to be Muslim physically was perceived to be a terrorist. When he was going back to Philippines he is separated from his friends, then detained at the airport and in the parking lot he is turned murderous by a resist taunt.
This incident reminds him of his Muslim religion and how they are not trusted by the Americans. They viewed Muslims as always a threat to their country, and because of this fundamental belief, they find it difficult to cope with them and have developed a pre-disposed stereo-type towards them. They easily think negative things towards people with physical appearance of a Taliban Terrorist and those with physical appearance of a Muslim; they always think that they are looking for their next target of attack. His successful intercourse becomes his final straw that confronts him with his otherness within. This gradually destroys his success when he returns to Pakistan and the complexity of his new life is reflected in his voice as he leads his companion to an uncertain ominous conclusion.
The Americans are unwilling to change the perception they have about the people from the Middle East who are mostly Muslims, and this makes them have a very bad perception about the Muslims. This perception creates tension an destroys the relationship between the people from the Middle East and the Americans as shown with the encounters of Hamid in New York. This seems to be taking another course of war between the Muslims and the Americans. In the novel, Reluctant Fundamentalist, Hamid shows the reader that when an individual is in America, his or her success depends on where he or she comes from and of course the religion. Hamid, even though he gets opportunities for him to succeed in life both socially and economically, he does not succeed because of his origin as a Muslim. He return home with his life shattered, he had no wife or a girlfriend at his age, and the degree he had acquired from America did not help him that much; even after getting a job, he does not stay in a comfortable place, where people appreciate him. Therefore, he chooses not to seek a job in New York and return to Pakistan.
The society need to change from its fundamental beliefs even it will be at their own expense. This is because sometimes they are wrong, and yet they hurt the innocent. The writer is simply warning the society to be careful in the way they judge others; it is not good to treat people with disrespect. For the Americans, they should willingly to accept change and treat the others with big hearts.
The other countries should not point fingers at America, saying that the book was meant for them, on the contrary, they should read the book and re-evaluate themselves in terms of their views about other people who are of different religion. They should also evaluate the role of religion in their countries, and ask themselves if it unites them with the other people in the world or it alienates them. From the novel, they should learn that an individual should not be identified with his religion but who she or he is as an individual.
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